Elizabethton Christmas Parade revealed diverse emotions

John Thompson • Updated Dec 7, 2019 at 11:23 PM

ELIZABETHTON — For several years now in Elizabethton, the first Saturday night in December has been the night of the Downtown Christmas Parade. But this year will be remembered for a long time as the night when many people in town had their hearts somewhere else: the state high school football championships.

The Elizabethton High School Cyclones were already leading Springfield High School as the different groups were lining up along the parade route. Car radios in the assembly area of Farm Bureau Insurance were tuned to WBEJ and the volume was turned up all the way to let everyone know that Elizabethton had taken the early lead.

The game had an impact on the parade. Probably for the first time ever, the parade went off without its biggest unit: the Elizabethton High School Betsy Band. The band was not in Elizabethton, it was playing for the football team at the championship game.

The parade was organized and led by the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce. Chamber President David LeVeau said the Betsy Band was certainly missed this year, but he said the parade still had a remarkably high participation of more than 1,000 and more than 70 units.

In one case, the championship game even brought back from retirement one of the parade’s previous, icons. Sgt. Steve Dunlap of the Elizabethton Fire Department once again drove the department’s 1923 Model T Ford configured as a fire truck. The vehicle had been the department’s first piece of automotive equipment and it had been completely restored by Dunlap before he became the official driver in parades and visits.

Dunlap retired from the department a few years ago and passed on his knowledge of the Model T to Fire Chief Barry Carrier. This year, Carrier chose to attend the state championship and Dunlap was back in the driver’s seat of the Model T.

There was one group in the parade whose hearts were certainly happy to be in Elizabethton and did not appear to have the desire to be anywhere else in the world. This was a delegation of soldiers from Eliabethton’s 776th Maintenance Co., a unit of the Tennessee National Guard.

More than 120 soldiers had made it home in time for Christmas after a year-long deployment to Kuwait. They received a warm welcome and several groups, including Big Dan’s Barbecue, Riverside Taphouse, Simply Elegant Bakery and Jiggy Ray’s Pizzeria served a meal to the soldiers who marched in the parade after they were finished with the route.

The parade marked another milestone. This is the last time that the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce will be organizing the parade, as well as the Covered Bridge Celebration and the Lighting of the Community Christmas Tree. The chamber is refocusing its assets on better serving its membership. LeVeau said it is hoped that dedicated groups will be making commitments to take over these projects.

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